Magical Montana lives in Flathead Lake Lodge
Story by Donna Corwin
Photos by Alex Lane Photography.com
Montana takes your breath away! From the minute we drove down the winding dirt road, past the lush green pastures, corrals of horses, the glistening lake and wood timbered cabins, I became calm and happy. Children run barefoot- laughing, playing volleyball, swimming in the lake. The feeling is reminiscent of a bygone era, when one once felt a carefree sense of abandon.
Averill's Flathead Lake Lodge in Big Fork Montana is a family respite away from the chaos of life. It is a throwback to simpler times and family togetherness. Our family has been visiting the ranch since my daughter was twelve-years-old, and now, she is married and about to have a baby of her own. We stayed during July 4th week, when multi generations of families gather together year after year to horseback ride, waterski, kayak, play tennis, river raft, sail, and revel in the awe inspiring natural beauty.
On the morning of July 4th, we hopped aboard the family owned fire trucks, the guests dressed up in red, white and blue, and joined the Big Fork Independence Day parade. We rode down the center of Main Street, alarms sounding, American flags waving. At night, a spectacular fireworks display rained over the lake. This was Americana at its best.
Averill's Flathead Lake Lodge was founded in 1945 and now, three generations later, the founder's son, Doug Averill and his family continue offering the traditions of a genuine warm western experience. There are family and teen trail rides, private equestrian classes, and adult rides for all levels. Children over six can join on family trail rides. My daughter always fell in love with her horse, that is, until she became a teenager and her interests turned to the wranglers.
There is a team steer penning contest (for those who want to feel like a real cowboy), and a children's rodeo and teepee camp out. Riding into the rolling hills, overlooking the verdant valley and deep blue lake is a special experience, and one that you'll never forget.
Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the west, and is located close to Glacier National Park, which makes this a perfect day trip. Take the Sun Road where you'll see massive cascading ice glaciers, waterfalls, big horn sheep, eagles, deer and possibly bear. Stop for lunch at the charming McDonald Lodge.
There is a myriad of activities on Flathead lake; sailing, fly boarding , boat trips, waterskiing, fishing, and canoeing. Kids like to jump off of the flag tower, but for the less adventurous, there is a beautiful swimming pool.
The meals at the Ranch are family style, hearty, and delicious. The chef prepares both down home fare, and children's favorite choices of pizza, chicken fingers, hamburgers and hot dogs. Enjoy a weekly steak fry chuck wagon cookout . There is a good chance that you will encounter a family of elk on the ridge.
There are early morning breakfast rides (the pancakes are a must), bar-b-Ques and half day lunch rides. You can dine by the massive stone fireplace in the dining room, or on the outdoor patio overlooking the lake. The log timbered cabins and lodges are rustic chic, and some can accommodate up to ten people.
The rooms are comfy and cozy, but don't expect modern luxury. This is a working ranch, and it is a family experience. The quilts are homemade, the furniture of hand-carved wood. The decor includes Native American collectibles and art. Flathead Lake Lodge is an authentic experience, and there is no price one can put on the warmth, friendliness, and welcome extended by the Averill family and their staff.
You can indulge in Yoga classes and massage as well as exercise classes. After a day in the saddle, this will be ultra relaxation for your tired body. We took long hikes, bike rides, and shopping excursions into Big Fork for cowboy boots and hats. In the evenings, families play board and card games, have singalongs and roast marshmallows over the fire pit.
There is a weekly barn dance preceded by adult and children mouse races- yes, mouse races. The little mice run down ropes, and the betting gets serious. Of course, for $2.00, the children can bet on their own mice. There is a cut out steel rim with eighteen numbered holes. A tiny mouse is placed on top and the first hole he scampers into is the winner. This year was the first annual Big Fork Rodeo. Flathead Lake provided all of their guests with VIP passes and an up close and personal area to observe.
Cowboys shot out of the chutes on twirling bucking broncos. There were barrel racing cowgirls, bull riders, and steer roping.
A week at Flathead Lake Lodge will leave you with beautiful and lasting memories. If you want a family vacation that is truly unique and a magical experience for everyone, go to Montana !
Flathead Lake Lodge
Rates: All inclusive , Sunday - Sunday
From $3,998 to $4248 per adult
Photos by Alex Lane Photography